JAMESTOWN and MINOT, N.D. – While the merits of the use of the word “bank” in credit union marketing materials continues to be debated, for credit union marketers here “bank” is not an option. A statute from the 1920s does not allow any other financial institutions to use the word bank, banker or banking. According to Town & Country Credit Union Marketing Director Patty Pretzer, real enforcement of the outdated statute occurred a little over two years ago when the Minot-based credit union branched into the Fargo area. “Our tagline had been `Smart banking.great service’ and it was used in all our advertising and was never an issue until our new grand opening in Fargo. Then suddenly the bankers pointed out there was this old statute and made a huge issue out of it for credit unions here,” said Pretzer. “Our position was that banking is a generic verb used by people everyday, but in the end that didn’t matter. So it has been challenging for us.” In addition to finding new ways to describe services such as online banking, the $114 million credit union had to do a complete overhaul of its brand position and tapped California-based marketing firm Michael’s Corporation for help. Pretzer says it took about a year to create the new tagline “Celebrate the Spirit”, change all the verbiage and make the switch. “Everything from our Web site and billboards to our signage, marketing materials and every single promotional item had to be changed,” said Pretzer. “It was very expensive but we did it and now because the tagline is so versatile it has actually worked in our favor.” Pretzer says members are invited to Celebrate the Spirit of community; Celebrate a better life with special offers from Town & Country CU; and invitations to the credit union’s annual meeting encouraged members to Celebrate a spirit of pride. Jamestown-based First Community Credit Union Marketing Vice President Monica Schauer says the biggest challenge has been trying to find substitutes for a term that is commonly used by members. “You know you get used to it but it can get frustrating to have to use different verbiage when discussing something everyone does every day like home banking we certainly can’t say home credit unioning-so instead we promote our Freedom Online service as having Internet access to your account,” said Schauer. “Rather than say do your banking here we push that we are your financial services financial institution. It’s a mouthful but by now members just think that’s the way we talk.” Pretzer adds that the statute certainly promotes creativity and subsequently places an emphasis on the service aspect of credit unions. “We use relationship a lot – for example building long term relationships for your financial future and we let members know that `we find solutions that give you options and financial freedom’,” said Pretzer. Both marketers agree that from a member and credit union awareness standpoint not using the “b-word” has not negatively impacted credit unions here. “You don’t stop advertising or promoting your credit union just because you can’t use banking or bank,” said Schauer. “We did a consumer survey not too long ago and we were ranked fifth in terms of name recognition and we scored high notes in satisfaction. What was interesting is that some banks may have had more recognition but there was also a large amount of dissatisfaction with those banks so to us that speaks volumes and is a big plus.” As the largest credit union in the state FCCU has reinforced its image as being part of the family by promoting its tagline “Everything we do we do for you” in all its advertising. “While it may seem almost un-American to not be permitted to use a word in the English language, by now it is just something we do on a regular basis and we focus on what makes our credit union more unique,” said Schauer. “Once the word is gone it is amazing to discover that you really don’t need to use it as much as you originally thought,” adds Pretzer. “You have an opportunity to think outside of the word bank or banking and it makes you free to be more creative.” [email protected]

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